Thursday, September 07, 2006

Civilization 101

Modern Man, Pretty Lady has noticed, often seems to feel that Civilization oppresses him. It cramps his style, he says. It is Unnatural and Constricting. He sees no reason for it. Civilization, thinks the modern man, is an invention of persnickety mother-figures, who must be rebelled against for the sake of, well, freedom.

Pretty Lady will let Modern Man in on a little secret. If he would learn some table manners, he would get laid a lot more often.

Really, boys. Pretty Lady may be a snob. She freely admits to having been raised by one, and some childhood scars are almost impossible to eradicate. But as much as she has sat discreetly by, determinedly failing to recognize loud hallmarks of Poor Upbringing in the fellows around her, the gross-out factor has proven insurmountable. It is programmed into her biology. The gross-out factor precedes Civilization; and indeed, she suspects that this is what gave birth to it in the first place.

So spare me your whining about fork choice. It's simple. Start on the outside and work your way in. The vastly more important rule, which must be kept foremost in the psyche at all times when attempting to impress the ladies, is that once food has entered the mouth, it should never be seen again.

Is there anything unclear about that? A show of hands, please? If you have any arguments about this at all, Pretty Lady does not want to hear them. You are fired. You may eat on the back porch along with the dog.

For those students remaining, we will now move on to the subtleties of utensil grip. Hold it like a pencil, not like a drill. Underhanded, not over. This has two main practical benefits: it forces the elbows toward your side, and away from your neighbor's ribs, and it causes the lady you are dining with to view you as a competent adult, and not as a semi-retarded three-year-old. This can have added benefits when your employer is considering things like promotion and salary range. An employee who cannot be trusted to lunch with important clients has a limited career trajectory.

Faugh! I hear you say. The Europeans don't do it like that. And everyone knows that Europeans are the very pinnacle of Civilization.

Which brings us to Rule #3: One adopts the table manners of the country and the household in which one is currently dining, and no other.

In China, Pretty Lady hears tell, it is the custom to pick up one's plate, plunge one's nose into it and make loud smacking sounds, while vacuuming in the food by force of air suction. Pretty Lady knows this because her sister's roommate learned his table manners in China. Pretty Lady can attest that this gentlemen remained date-free until he altered his table-manner paradigm of choice.

Thus, while in Japan one may slurp one's soup. One may not slurp at a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, no matter how authentically decorated. However, if one is dining with a lovely Pakistani lady in Austin, Texas, and she hands you a plate, a napkin, and no eating utensils whatsoever, you 1) wash your hands; 2) observe; 3) consume your meal in precisely the same way she does; and 4) wash your hands again.

In fact, Observation is Key. Why do people have such trouble with this?

You see, boys, ladies place inordinate significance upon seemingly tiny clues. A man who holds his fork incorrectly is presumed uneducated, boorish, unstable, and improvident, by any lady who is considering the advisability of a second date with him. On the contrary, the cad who dresses sharply, holds his fork impeccably and carries on dinner-table conversation without spraying half-chewed food on his partner has a monstrously unfair advantage. A correctly placed dinner-table elbow can stand in for hours of boasting about Harvard this and M.I.T. that.

Pretty Lady is not claiming that this is fair. But it has the advantage of being easy and free; so why not relax your standards of rigorous liberty for a single evening, observe the results, and proceed from there? This is nothing if not scientific.


Pretty Lady said...

Morris, you must be psychic. Pretty Lady just gave somebody a lecture on that very subject. It was an extreme thing to do, but when one has known a lady for twenty-eight years, and she has not clued in to it yet, and when she has complained vociferously and despairingly for an entire weekend about the devastating results to her social life inflicted by this lack of skill, it is time, in Pretty Lady's opinion, to Say Something.

Anonymous said...

"If he would learn some table manners, he would get laid a lot more often."

Absolutely not true. You might get more dates, but that's not indicitive of one's ability to get laid. In fact... oh, never mind.

Pretty Lady said...

Well, at least he wouldn't frighten off anyone who was sitting on the fence. So to speak.

The Aardvark said...

Alas, observation requires closing one's eclair-hole and, well, observing.
Open eyes and ears, increase input, pot output to zero.

Not a popular pastime.

Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious, it sounds like my 2-year-old has better table manners than the current eligible bachelor pool (okay, so maybe 18 months was a bit young to insist she put her napkin in her lap, but it's soooo cute!!

Anonymous said...


Just remember, Chivalry isn't dead. It's just in a coma.....